Late Saturday morning, lunch time for most people, I met up with Reuben and his lovely wife at Blackbird‘s new location in Minneapolis. While I am not one for breakfast, being that Reuben won the contest for 2010′s Best Comment, he got to pick.
I walked in at about 11:25 AM and found Blackbird completely filled. Blackbird doesn’t take reservations so I got my name in on the list while I awaited the arrival of my two dining partners. During the 10 minute wait a steady stream of people were walking in and out the front door. Blackbird was definitely doing great business on that particular Saturday morning. Eventually Reuben and his wife appeared in the doorway and we were quickly seated (a surprise for me as I figured we’d be waiting at least 15 more minutes) near the back of the small restaurant.
Blackbird is a nice space with a row of booths on the one wall, a bar on the other and a variety of tables in the center with a long converted church pew breaking up the bar from the rest of the restaurant. While certainly fitting a lot of people in a small space, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at our table and I didn’t notice the heavy server and diner traffic going past our table. Even though the setup was great, I have to admit that the random assortment of antlers mounted on the wall, over the bar, were a bit odd and packed in so tight that it just seemed out of place.
Our server arrived, handed us our menus, gave us water, and even though it wasn’t quite yet noon, offered up their drink menus including a variety of alcoholic beverages that we weren’t interested in. As evidenced by the large number of drink glasses on the other tables their mimosas seemed to be a popular item on that particular morning. After deciding to stick with the water, our waitress let us look over the breakfast menu and make our choices.
Being that I’m not a big breakfast guy I was pleased to see that Blackbird offered a good variety of sandwich options for those of us who don’t see a whole lot of value in breakfast foods. After a good bit of jumping back and forth between items I settled on The Longhorn (braised beef brisket, caramelized onions, tomatoes, provolone, horseradish mayo) with a cup of their soup of the day–walleye chowder. Reuben ordered a Frittata which he customized with bacon, and mushrooms for $9 and his wife ordered the Huevos Rancheros for $9.
Even though the place was extremely busy our food was out quickly. While Reuben’s Frittata was nothing special to look at and included only toast on the side, both his wife’s Heuvos Rancheros and my Longhorn looked great and I was more excited than usual to dig into my lunch of a simple sandwich and soup.
The soup was far more complex than I expected. An array of fresh and brightly flavored vegetables and herbs paired with tender and thin strips of walleye made for one incredible chowder. While I couldn’t possibly name all of the ingredients they were far different than what I have become accustomed to in chowders but I was pleasantly surprised with the dish and would definitely say it was worth the extra few dollars it cost over the fries the sandwich originally came with. The sandwich itself was, to be perfectly honest, an indulgence at $11. While I generally have great disdain for sandwiches, this one beat all of my expectations six-ways to Sunday.
The brisket was tender but carried an excellent and flavorful char around the edges. While the provolone was barely present, it offered an additional creamy texture and helped to temper a fairly hot horseradish sauce slathered over the soft bread. The tomatoes, while slipping and sliding on the cheese and horseradish sauce, were the perfect top on this delectable sandwich. I am usually a very fast eater, and routinely done well in advance of everyone else around me, however on this day I found myself stopping to slowly enjoy my meal as I really didn’t want it to end. If there was one sandwich I wouldn’t mind having on a regular basis it would be Blackbird’s Longhorn. While City Pages has ranked Blackbird’s Bahn Mi #87 on their top 100 favorite dishes, I think they must have missed The Longhorn because I just can’t imagine the Bahn Mi could be much better than what I had on Saturday morning.
I didn’t get a chance to ask Reuben’s wife much about her Huevos Rancheros but she did mention that it was very good even though she knew it would be giving her heartburn later. On Sunday evening I was chatting up Reuben about his meal, being that he said little else other than it was great, and I asked him if he were paying if he would order it again. His reply was, “If I was paying, I’d probably think it was a little overpriced for a pile of scrambled eggs.” However he again wanted to be clear that he thought it was very good although nothing that he couldn’t have done at home himself–a common complaint about breakfasts in general and one of the biggest reasons I just can’t get all that excited about it myself.
Aside from our meal I want to specifically point out the excellent service provided by our server. Normally when alcoholic beverages are pushed and you order water, the service becomes spotty at best. However, this was not the case with our server who rarely allowed our small water glasses to get to empty and who did not rush us out the door following our meal–something I fully expected in a restaurant which was turning tables as quickly as it was. If all of Blackbird’s servers are as pleasant and professional as ours was then their hiring practices are top notch.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Blackbird and I told The Wife that we’d have to get up there sometime together. However, being that you have to pass Corner Table along the way, I’m not sure I’d be able to make it further down the street again without being reminded of my most favorite meal in the Twin Cities. While Blackbird was not cheap, and may have even been considered overpriced for two breakfast items and soup/sandwich combo, my meal was so very excellent that I’m willing to give the $33 tab (before tip) a pass just this once.
Have you ever eaten at Blackbird (new or old) in Minneapolis? If so what did you think? What are your favorite items? Have you had both the Longhorn and the Bahn Mi and if so do you think that the Bahn Mi deserves a higher ranking on CityPages top 100 list? Whatever you have to say about Blackbird Cafe in Minneapolis go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
3800 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55409
See all the pictures from Blackbird Cafe in Minneapolis on Flickr here.